Shaking Up the Garbage Game

Helping businesses cut their trash and improve environmental stewardship, Waste Solutions Canada is swiftly changing a slow-moving industry

Photo: Waste Solution Canada’s Jason Wilcox

WHO KNEW GARBAGE could go high-tech?

If they didn’t absolutely know in 2006, Shane Curtis and Jason Wilcox had a strong suspicion technology could change the way companies deal with their waste. That was when the duo set up shop in Curtis’ Tillsonburg basement and created Waste Solutions Canada.

The biggest news in the first year was when Wilcox moved to London to open an official office as the lone employee of the company. Today, it has 30 employees, with operations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. Its five-year revenue growth of 545 per cent landed it at number 165 on the Globe and Mail’s Growth 500 list. Revenue in 2018 was $5 million.

“Our initial approach was to assess the way companies were dealing with their garbage,” says Wilcox, who manages the day-to-day operations. “We were looking for landfill ­diversion opportunities and other ways to save money.”

“Haulers have made a lot of money on fees, and there has been some resistance to this kind of scrutiny, but many realize it’s coming and are working with us” —Jason Wilcox

The goal is still to save money for companies handling waste, but today the solutions are more complex and have the potential to revolutionize an entire industry that has been slow to change in some cases.

“We’re investing in a lot of technology now. It’s disruptive,” Wilcox says.

The company installs wireless sensors in its clients’ ­dumpsters and recycling containers. That allows it to track the life of a given container. At the most basic level, it can confirm the contracted hauler is doing what it promised—picking up on the proper schedule and delivering to the right place. “We can see if there’s a missed pick-up, for example. Or if a bin was only half-full when it was picked up.”

But that is just the beginning. Analyzing the data using AI technology, Wilcox and his ­colleagues can optimize pick-up schedules, ditching static weekly schedules in favour of a flexible schedule that reacts to customers’ needs.

“Haulers have made a lot of money on fees, and there has been some ­resistance to this kind of scrutiny, but many realize it’s coming and are working with us,” Wilcox says. “We have strong relationships with many haulers who understand we can help them get new accounts.”

That’s because Waste Solutions essentially manages waste removal for its clients, negotiating better contracts with haulers because it deals with so many. In essence, the company is an independent go-between, delivering lower costs to its clients by working closely with haulers willing to play ball.

New clients pay nothing up front. They simply agree to work with Waste Solutions for a minimum time period, ­usually three years. The company installs the technology for free, confident it will produce savings, from which it takes its fee.

In London, its clients include Fanshawe College, White Oaks Mall, McCormick Canada and Bertoldi’s. Much of the company’s recent growth has come from signing up large, national accounts—companies that manage scores of shopping malls, for example. As a result, Waste Solutions is in the process of reorganizing itself to recognize the different requirements of local and national clients. It unveiled a new logo and look this month.

It has a separate division, Waste Audit Canada, that ­provides audits to organizations legally required to do waste audits on a regular basis.

The two partners also have a real estate investment ­business—Curtis Wilcox. Curtis manages its day-to-day operations. Christopher Clark

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